Skywatch for the week of September 5, 2022
Mon Sep 5, 2022 INTERSTELLAR VS. INTERGALACTIC
The science fiction movie The Day the Earth Stood Still opened on September 20th, 1951. In it, an alien named Klatuu says he traveled 200 million miles to land on Earth. That’s not very far, about the distance from here to Mars. Klaatu says he represents many civilizations from other stars in our galaxy. Now the correct term for this is “interstellar,” literally, “between the stars.” But what bad science fiction movies often say is “intergalactic,” meaning, “between galaxies.” And the aliens say things like, “We traveled hundreds of light years from another galaxy so that we could take all your chocolate.” But then they’d still be inside our own Milky Way, which is 100,000 light years across. Other galaxies are millions of light years away. So let’s forget “intergalactic,” and bring back good old, “interstellar.” And maybe we should hide the chocolate too, just in case.
Tue Sep 6, 2022 SCHOOL SHOWS
We’re getting ready for another season of planetarium shows at Indian River State College. There will be an free open house on Saturday, October 1st, followed by shows about the planet Mars throughout the fall. And starting today, we’re accepting reservations from area school teachers who want to bring their classes to the Hallstrom Planetarium. IRSC offers free field trips to public, private and home school groups, grades K – 12, in St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River and Okeechobee Counties. Programs cover a variety of astronomy topics, like stars and constellations, trips through the solar system, and even the exploration of distant galaxies and quasars nearly fifteen billion light years away. If you’re a teacher and want to bring your class to see the stars, call Indian River State College at 772 462-7503 to make a reservation.
Wed Sep 7, 2022 PIONEER 11
In September 1979, Pioneer 11 became the first spacecraft to travel past Saturn. Launched in 1973, it took six years to cross the billion-mile gap between Earth and Saturn. When Pioneer 11 passed Jupiter, it nearly got its circuits fried by the giant planet’s powerful magnetosphere. And Pioneer 11 was first to see Saturn's twisted, outermost F ring. If you’d like to take a look at Saturn and Jupiter tonight, you’ll find them in the southeastern sky after sunset. Saturn appears as a yellowish star just above and to the left of the moon, while Jupiter shines as very bright star to the east. Small telescopes can reveal Jupiter’s moons and Saturn’s rings, but although Pioneer 11 is in that same general area of the sky, you can’t see it, even with the most powerful telescope on earth. It’s over 10 billion miles out, in the great beyond.
Thu Sep 8, 2022 STAR TREK
The TV show Star Trek first aired on September 8, 1966. I saw that first episode, which was about an alien that would suck the salt out of you when you weren’t looking. So of course, like many young space enthusiasts, I was immediately captivated. I liked the show’s vision of a promising future (not counting the part where you get the salt sucked out of you,) and the portrayal of humans as daring explorers of the galaxy, curious about what they would find out there. The science and astronomy in it showcased the beauty and vastness of outer space – grand nebulas, lush planets, exotic moons. The writers built on the best of classic science fiction, and the science was, for the most part, well-researched. The writers confined the action to our Milky Way galaxy, which at 100,000 light years across, was big enough to contain us. For now, anyway.
Fri Sep 9, 2022 FULL MOON OF SEPTEMBER
The moon is full. September’s full moon is the Barley Moon of medieval England, or the Singing Moon in Scotland and Ireland, while in the Americas it is the Corn Moon. The Cherokee call it the Black Butterfly Moon or the Nut Moon. Similarly it is the Little Chestnut Moon of the Creek and the Seminole people. It is the Drying Grass Moon of the Arapaho and the Cheyenne people, and the Choctaw Indian’s Courting Moon. To the Omaha Indians it is the Moon When the Deer Paw the Earth while the Sioux say it is the Moon When Calves Grow Hair. This is also the Harvest Moon, the full moon which occurs nearest the autumnal equinox, the beginning of fall, which will be on September 22nd. Over several nights, the light of this full moon proves helpful to farmers who bring in their harvest of crops after sunset.